Like many Ephs, I was angry about the features article that appeared last week, “Sartorial Observer: It’s spring, time to care about what you wear” by arts editor Will Gutierrez. It was offensive and hurtful to many, and labeling it satire cannot undo that. However, though it should be addressed, and I speak to the campus when I say this, it should be done with open ears, tact and consideration.
The article exposes an ugly side about the culture at Williams and around the country. Do we really need somebody else telling us that we have to “look good” or “dress well” when anxiety about appearance that is already so prevalent, is already the cause of so many health issues, both mental and physical? Isn’t even one student feeling excluded or harming themselves because of insecurities about the way they look already one too many?
Another comment that caused resentment was made about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Regardless of whether or not students think this reference was “too small” or “too obviously a joke” to bother taking seriously, this very sort of nonchalant attitude towards mental health issues propagates the stigmas surrounding them. The statement may have been a joke, but I’ve been accused of using depression as an “excuse” for “being sad” or not “putting in the effort” into “making myself happy,” as if it were a get-out-of-jail-free card. Phrases such as “your excuse of Seasonal Affective disorder is no longer valid” reflect that it is still okay in our culture to refer to these conditions as “excuses,” even if in jest.
There were also statements made regarding weight that propagate ideas of what an “ideal” Williams student should be. If you are a Williams student, you should be athletic, fit and “keep it tight,” and have no other excuse otherwise. This sets yet another expectation on all of us: not only must you dress right, but your body must look right as well. Phrases like this contribute to body image issues amongst mostly young and already healthy women and many other individuals as well.
This all being said, though students by all means have the right to be angry, I cannot bring myself to actually write this response in anger, partially because I cannot walk up to Will Gutierrez himself and remain angry, and I have spoken to him personally. It’s unfortunate that this article was printed in our school newspaper, but despite this, I know it wasn’t written maliciously. I was angry, and to be honest, I regret my personal initial reaction to the article, though I don’t mean my regret to devalue anyone else’s reaction. I wanted to write this letter because it’s okay to be hurt and angry by what was written, but it is more productive to talk about it humanely and compassionately. It is all too easy to get into offensive and defensive positions, but this rarely brings any meaningful change.
Alexander Peña ’15